PG-Mackenzie Candidates Clash Over Education, Site C, the Economy
Prince George, B.C. – Residents were treated to a spirited debate involving all candidates in the Prince George-Mackenzie riding in the Canfor Theatre at UNBC last night.
All of them have campaign experience under their belt – Mike Morris the Liberal incumbent, the NDP’s Bobby Deepak who’s running against Morris in a rematch of the 2013 provincial election, and Hilary Crowley, who’s running for the sixth time – four times for the federal Green Party and this her second time for the BC Greens.
Their collective experience showed as none shied away from pressing their points – first when they were asked what they would do to ensure British Columbians have an education system they can prosper with into the coming decades.
“The Green Party is offering free – 25 hours – of early childhood education,” said Crowley. “Free daycare for parents with children under three.”
If elected, she also promised the BC Greens would invest $65 million over four years into co-op programs, offer needs based grants and offer tax forgiveness – $2,000 a year for up to five years for university graduates.
“We think it’s important all young people get trades training to participate in the economy,” countered Morris. “For example, we recently announced a new sonography program at CNC, the first of its kind outside the Lower Mainland and we’ve just promised 1,000 seats to science and engineering programs in B.C.”
“How can this be promised this close to an election period?” countered Crowley. Who pointed out the promise was made Monday by the BC Liberals, just eight days prior to the provincial election.
“We have Christy Clark saying a lot but not doing a lot,” said Deepak. “We have the worst performing economy in Canada. Post-secondary education has been cut by 20 per cent.”
“The poorest economy in Canada” replied an astonished Morris. “We are the best in Canada.”
“No, not in the North,” pointed out Deepak, arguing the unemployment rate is currently over 7 per cent in Prince George.
“Well it was 17 per cent in 2001, and seven per cent now,” said Morris.
The debate got even more heated when Morris trumpeted the Liberal plan to carry on with the Site C dam.
“I’m a supporter of Site C, much to the chagrin of the others here,” he said. “It will produce hundreds of years of clean, renewable, energy. Maybe in a hundred years we’ll be taking out energy from the sun but not now.”
Crowley argued Site C “is not necessary,” and instead argued the need for renewable energy sources.
Deepak said the NDP would have the project reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission before making a final decision.
“Christy Clark sidestepped the BCUC on Site C. LNG didn’t work out so Site C was a political decision to create jobs now.”
“Will you issue 2,100 pink slips then,” replied Morris. “No, said Deepak. “We’ll fast-track that review.”
“There’s no project that’s been studied more,” argued Morris.
On the economy, Deepak said it clearly “isn’t working for regular working people” like it is for the “wealthy and the rich.”
To that end, he said the NDP plan is to freeze BC Hydro and ICBC rates, offer $10 a day child care and lower MSP premiums.
“But there’s a $6.5 billion hole in the NDP program with all the spending promises,” said Morris.
Deepak responded by saying “you are calculating stuff we have not promised.”